Chandigarh, Oct 26 : Towering and energetic Dushyant Chautala (31), a business administration graduate from California State University, on Saturday emerged as the rising force among the Jats, who comprise 28 per cent of Haryana’s population.
Deputy Chief Minister-designate Dushyant Chautala is the great grandson of former Deputy Prime Minister and the tallest Jat leader, late Devi Lal, whose Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has been politically marginalised in the just-concluded Assembly elections in Haryana.
But INLD’s off-shoot and less than a year old Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), led by Dushyant Chautala, sprang a surprise by winning 10 seats in the 90-member Haryana Assembly.
In a post-electoral alliance, the JJP has extended support to the BJP, which won 40 seats, six short of the majority mark.
Analysts believe the JJP’s rise from the ashes is noticeable as its vote share rose significantly in the state polls from 4.53 per cent in this year’s Lok Sabha elections, which it fought with its alliance partner Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
As per the Election Commission of India, others, including the JJP and Independents, have secured 27.33 per cent votes in the Assembly polls.
In contrast, INLD’s vote share in this year’s Lok Sabha elections nose-dived to less than 2 per cent from over 24 per cent in 2014 and 25.8 per cent in 2009.
The once formidible party’s vote share plunged even below the Bahujan Samaj Party, which managed to get 4.11 per cent votes. Abhay Chautala won the lone seat for INLD in the Assembly polls.
Analysts blame the INLD’s fall to its vertical split.
Dushyant Chautala parted ways with the INLD in December 2018 after a bitter vertical split in the party and the Chautala family.
Former MP and Dushyant Chautala’s father, Ajay Chautala, is the elder son of four-time Chief Minister and INLD President Om Prakash Chautala.
The INLD, which ruled the state the last time from 2000 to 2004 and was once the main opposition party in the outgoing government, was divided owing to differences between Ajay Chautala and his brother Abhay Chautala. Their father sided with the latter.
Dushyant Chautala, who from a young age saw his elderly family members in election mode, not only played an emotional chord during his poll campaign, but also didn’t mince words in taking a dig at his estranged family for severing ties.
Dushyant’s campaign was focused largely on the youth with a promise of more job opportunities, said a political observer.
Moreover, his supporters see the ‘chhavi’ or image of Devi Lal in 6’4″ Dushyant Chautala, who prefers to dress in white kurta-pyjama, much like his great grandfather.
In contrast, the INLD relied heavily on its patriarch Om Prakash Chautala, who after completing his parole, went back to jail on October 8. He is serving a 10-year jail term in Tihar for his involvement in a teacher recruitment scam.
Not lagging behind, Dushyant Chautala, who fought on JJP symbol ‘key’ in the Lok Sabha polls and finished second, appealed to the voters by saying, “The JJP is the real representative of the legacy of Devi Lal.”
“The former Deputy Prime Minister was popular among the masses as the ‘Jannayak’ and that is the why we have included Jannayak in our party’s name,” he had said.
JJP had shown its strength in the Jind bypoll in January in which it finished second, while Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala finished third.
Reposing more faith in turncoats to ensure its return, the ruling BJP fielded 15 rebel candidates in the Assembly polls, including 11 defected INLD legislators.
Of the INLD’s 19 MLAs, four joined its breakaway faction JJP.
The JJP fielded the highest number of Jat candidates at 34, followed by Congress’ 27 and BJP’s 20.
“The JJP has pocketed the traditional vote bank of the Jats. This was the reason for its success,” a senior BJP leader admitted.
The INLD was founded by Devi Lal as the Haryana Lok Dal (Rashtriya) in 1996 and was renamed as the INLD in 1998.
Meanwhile, despite losing its eight outgoing ministers, the vote share of the BJP went up by over 3 per cent. By winning 40 seats, the BJP has secured 36.48 per cent of votes, up from 33.20 per cent it got in the 2014 Assembly polls.
The opposition Congress got 28.10 per cent of votes, a sharp jump from 20.58 per cent in 2014, when it won 15 seats. This time, the party has got 31 seats.
The results show that Dushyant Chautala now holds the ‘key’ in Jat politics in Haryana.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at [email protected])